Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,
Spacefem
spacefem

Sears - The Baby Sleep Book

I read "The Baby Sleep Book" by Dr. Sears.

I picked it up because Marc and I are interested in increasing our baby's sleeping, and this book was on kellymom's list of books that give good advice that doesn't sabatoge a breastfeeding relationship.

I've never read a Dr. Sears book, but apparently these are the folks that caused some of the attachment parenting craze. I will say that based on the book, I've been more "attachment parent-y" than I thought I'd been. I thought attachment parenting meant you weren't allowed to put your baby down. I got this definition from an episode of The L-Word, and from some parents at my friend's church who campaigned to shut down the infant nursery because it gave people the idea that it was okay to abandon their little bundles of joy for a WHOLE HOUR... oh perish the thought. (Marc and I love our church nursery. In fact that hour of abandonment and adult conversation is one of the things that's really keeping us going to church a lot these days.)

But this book says nothing about forced 24-7 contact, it just says attachment parenting is "high touch"... if the baby cries, you pick her up and comfort her. Well crap that's what we're doing. And it's not out of any grand philosophy, we just don't really like crying and noticed we can usually do something about it. It does mention that some attachment parents wear their babies in a sling or carrier for "several hours a day", but that's just one item on a list of things you're supposed to pick and choose from to be an attachment parent. We're doing most other things on the list without even thinking about it... I held Josie for a long time right after she was born, we're breastfeeding, she slept in our room for months, I feel squickly about leaving her strapped in a carseat if we're not driving in the car.

"The Baby Sleep Book" devotes one entire chapter and several scattered pages throughout to the idea that you shouldn't "let your baby cry it out" to get her to sleep. Babies who cry for extended periods of time on many nights grow into kids who associate sleep with anxiety and abandonment, and develop behavior problems related to the fact that they don't have a healthy communicative relationship with their parents. The book does a good job citing research studies to support their viewpoint without getting too bogged down and medically.

Instead, they recommend two important things that I think can be summarized this way: change the things you can, roll with the things you can't.

In the "can change" category, the book provides an arsenal of healthy baby sleep strategies. There's a 20+ item checklist of medical and comfort items to look for. They discuss the importance of nap schedules, which is something we should probably have given more thought to. There's a lot of talk about how two parents can (have to) work together to support each other... dads are very helpful when it comes to teaching babies to sleep without just nursing constantly.

Then there's the "can't change" category, where they talk about changing your attitude and expectations to make your life easier. Appreciate the time you have snuggling your baby to sleep, it'll pass by soon. Take care of yourself. One thing I changed was my bedtime. I noticed a long time ago that breastfeeding, especially Josie's nighttime extended super-feeding session, tends to make me really freaking drowsy. It was annoying! But the book says that rather than shake it off and try to get stuff done after the baby goes to sleep, I should use it to get the rest I need. Sleepy? Go to sleep! That way I won't be so deprived of it. The drowsiness is actually hormonal. It's nature's way of telling me to relax. It has a reason.

And finally, the book made me feel much better about how Josie's night sleeping is going. It says parents in groups tend to over-estimate their baby's stretches of sleep, sometimes out of competitiveness, sometimes they just lose track of how it's all going. But in reality it takes babies a long time to sleep through the night because they're programmed to check in with Mom and Dad. It wasn't really a problem in society until we grew wealthier, bought nursery furniture and put our babies at the other end of a 2,000 sq ft house, where we had to hike around in the middle of the night to get to them. Babies under six months need to eat during the night to thrive, babies older than that are often still adjusting and just need comfort. They do not need to be "trained" like puppies, they are not trying to manipulate their parents by crying. Some babies will cry for five minutes and go to sleep, but most won't. So don't put them through hell because some training book told you it's the right thing to do! Go help them out, and eventually they'll be independent kids who trust you and sleep like it's no biggie.

Josie has slept through the night plenty of times, but she has lots of "off weeks" related to teething or schedule issues or just her mood, I guess. I'd say most nights she wakes up twice. Last night after she was finally really down for the night around 10, she slept until 12, woke up, nursed, went back to sleep in her crib until 6. At 6 I nursed her in our bed because that's a sure-fire way of getting a few more hours of sleep, and left her there.

I'm going to bed earlier, my sleep is interrupted, but I'd say I'm really feeling pretty rested. Am I getting a lot done? Nope. But what's the point of this year anyway? I already decided that room in the basement was never going to be tackled, I might as well relax about other stuff too. This book made me feel pretty good about all that.
Tags: books, books - parenting
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